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REBOOT YOUR REFERRALS Cast a wide net to catch more business. Referrals don’t just appear magically in your inbox. “If you expect referrals to just happen, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities,” says real estate trainer Rich Sands with Rich Sands Seminars in Aurora, Colo. Sands, also an instructor for the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), encourages practitioners to take a more active approach to referrals. On average, real estate professionals earn 21 percent of their business through referrals from past clients and customers, according to the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile. Agents with stronger referral bases tend to have higher incomes, too. For example, REALTORS® earning $150,000 or more report that about 29 percent of their business is from referrals. By comparison, those earning between $10,000 and $24,999 say referrals make up only 18 percent. Broker-owner John Rygiol, abr®, with Buyer’s Broker Inc. in Irvine, Calif., says about 50 percent of his annual sales come through referrals. He credits REBAC’s Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation with helping him maintain an expansive network of fellow buyer agents nationwide. Here are suggestions for building strong referral networks.

Make Yourself Referral-worthy No one will recommend you unless they believe you’re a great agent, Sands says. Earning designations and certifications can set you apart. It also gives others more confidence when recommending you. That’s how Rygiol judges who to refer his relocating buyers to, placing the most weight on agents with the ABR®, GRI, and CRS designations. “When I refer a home buyer, I seek the best person in that area based on their demonstrated performance and extra education,” Rygiol says. Sands encourages agents to use their website to highlight their background, using videos and blog posts to explain how designations confer benefits to clients.

Target Key Players REALTORS®: Become more social with professionals nationwide by attending REALTOR® conventions and taking classes for REALTOR® designations, such as GREEN or ABR®, in other cities. REALTORS® who earn the ABR® have access to the Buyers’ Rep Directory at REBAC.net, an online community of 35,000 REALTORS® nationwide, for exchanging referrals. Be sure to ask agents their fee for referring clients to you. Local service providers: Connect with painters, remodeling contractors, or even divorce attorneys to swap referrals. Some agents do this formally through organizations such as the Business Networking International (bni.com) or LeTip (letip .com), where professionals from various industries exchange business leads.

Community groups: Peggy Lynch with RE/MAX Mountain Brokers in Estes Park, Colo., has built an extensive network by joining local organizations. But don’t just be a member: Becoming a leader improves your name recognition, she says. Also, give back financially. For example, her business’s $1,000 donation to a local Cancer Society prompted the organization’s staff to recommend her to others, resulting in a multimillion-dollar sale. “The more you give, the more you get back,” Lynch says. “People are really appreciative when you give not just money but also your time and effort. They get to know you as a good person, and they want to refer you.” Past customers: Maintaining close contact with your past customers “can be a gold mine for referrals,” says Carol Moson, a real estate sales trainer with Peep Centric and an ABR® and GREEN instructor. Moson says even small gestures, such as sending out handwritten cards for birthdays and holidays, can have a big impact. She once cooked dinner for her clients, a family that had just relocated to the area. Within a month, they referred her to two other relocating families. Current customers: Often, “the best time to get referrals from customers is when they’re actually going through the process themselves,” Sands says. They’re likely talking about their buying or selling experiences to everyone they know. Others may hear it and say: “We’re thinking about it, too. Who’s your agent?” Remind your clients that you’re available to help their family and friends.

Give Some to Get More If you’re not getting a lot of referrals, ask yourself: How many are you sending out? “The key to working referrals and getting referrals from other REALTORS® is to have a great database,” Rygiol says. He maintains several websites that position him as a go-to agent for people who are relocating and need an agent. Buyers can fill out a form, and if they’re moving away from the Irvine area, Rygiol recommends them to a buyer’s agent elsewhere. For any referral he makes, Rygiol follows up with both the customer and agent a week later to ensure contacts were made. Then he adds the agent to his contact management system. He sends networking e-mails once or twice a year to his buyer’s agent referral network, highlighting his experience in case they’re ever able to return the favor. Don’t forget to ask for referrals from other agents and customers. In networking situations, Sands says, “you’re not saying ‘I want your business’ but ‘I would love to have you in my referral network, and I’d love to be in yours, too.’”

For more information, visit REBAC.net.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

RealtorMag May/June  
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